Donald Trump recently visited Versailles Restaurant in Miami after dealing with his arraignment in a Miami courthouse. There’s a lot of talk about this, but that’s beside the point. Let’s look past the politics of this occurrence. Instead, let’s talk about this iconic restaurant that’s become a landmark in one of the most Latino-dense cities in the United States.
Versailles Restaurant has been around for half a century, and it has become a go-to for authentic Cuban cuisine. Beyond its delectable dishes and lively atmosphere, Versailles holds a special place in the hearts of locals as the birthplace of “La Ventanita,” a cultural phenomenon that has become synonymous with the Cuban coffee culture in Miami. In some ways, this place has also served as a haven for immigrants and Latinos of all walks in South Florida.
The Birthplace of ‘La Ventanita’
Versailles Restaurant, located in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana, opened its doors in 1971 by Felipe Valls and quickly became a gathering place for Cuban exiles and locals alike. It was here that the concept of “La Ventanita,” which translates to “the little window,” came to life. This unique window service allowed customers to order Cuban coffee, pastries, and sandwiches without entering the restaurant, creating a bustling hub of social interaction and cultural exchange.
Versailles proudly claims its role as the birthplace of “La Ventanita” and its significance in preserving Cuban traditions and fostering a sense of community among Cubans living in Miami. It became a symbol of nostalgia, a connection to the island they left behind, and a source of comfort in their new home.
The Versailles Restaurant is a Cultural Icon
The history of Versailles is interwoven with the history of Miami’s Cuban community. It has served as a backdrop for political rallies, passionate discussions about current events, and a meeting place for generations of families to celebrate milestones. Its walls have heard stories of triumph and resilience, capturing the spirit of the Cuban diaspora. However, being that Miami is the home to many Latino immigrants, it is a place that is dear to other non-Cuban Latinos in South Florida. From “La Ventanita” to its indoor space, it’s an experience like none other.
‘La Ventanita’ Today
Over the years, “La Ventanita” has evolved into more than just a window to order coffee. It has become a cultural institution, a place where friends gather, share stories, and find comfort in the familiar sounds and aromas of Cuban coffee being prepared with expertise and passion.
It is important to note that “La Ventanita” is more than a convenience for people, it is a way of life. Here, in South Florida, everyone is always rushing from one place to another, but when you’re at a ventanita, you allow yourself to wait for the perfect espumita for your Cuban coffee to be whipped up by a Cuban lady who is probably sharing chisme with her colleagues. If you’re lucky, you’ll be informed of the gossip while you wait for your order too. As a Miami native, the humor embedded into “Miamisms” is what keeps me going and firmly planted in this pseudo-extension of Latin America in the US. Let’s face it: The things that happen in Miami are often isolated in this small, yet animated city.
“La Ventanita” has extended beyond the physical window at Versailles, with numerous establishments in Miami adopting the concept and keeping the tradition alive. It has become a symbol of the resilience, pride, and unity of the Cuban and Latino community, serving as a cultural touchstone for generations.